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Meet Our Patron, St. Francis de Sales

St. Francis de Sales by Francisco Bayeu, Courtesy of the Museo del Prado, Madrid

On January 24th, DeSales Media celebrates the feast of our founder, St. Francis de Sales. Although he’s not as famous a saint as the Francis from Assisi, St. Francis de Sales was a revolutionary preacher and advocate for the laity at a critical time in the Church’s history. Francis de Sales’ skills as a clear thinker, a pastoral and insightful spiritual mentor, and an intelligent writer were gifts to his flock in the diocese of Geneva and beyond.

Who is Francis?

Let’s start with the basics. Francis de Sales was the definition of a Renaissance man. And not just because he lived during the Renaissance. He was a multi-talented young gentleman from a noble family, with a great love for education.

From the age of 13 to 21, Francis studied at the Jesuit College of Clermont in Paris, studying the liberal arts in addition to fencing, riding, and dancing—classes that were prerequisite to acceptance in polite society!

After graduation, he studied law and theology at the University of Padua. His father wanted him to begin practicing as a lawyer, but Francis privately vowed to become a priest. Despite his father’s insistence (and even setting up a betrothal for Francis! Talk about a Helicopter Parent.) Francis refused marriage and was eventually ordained a priest in 1593.

Francis spent most of his priestly career in the Franco-Swiss city of Annecy, after a brief and harrowing stint in Geneva. As the seat of Protestant reformer, John Calvin, Geneva was the capital of the Calvinist movement and was hostile to Catholics. In 1602, Francis was appointed bishop of Geneva, but he ruled from the nearby town of Annecy, since Calvinists had completely overtaken Geneva.

As bishop, Francis de Sales displayed a great love and devotion to his flock. He began to publish his spiritual writings. His most famous— Introduction to the Devout Life —was a groundbreaking book, as it was addressed not to other clergy or religious, but to regular men and women trying to live lives of holiness in the world.

In their welcome packet, each DeSales Media employee receives a copy of Francis de Sales’ Introduction to the Devout Life . So, as a celebration of this unique and powerful saint, we present some key takeaways from Introduction to the Devout Life .

Follow the Revolution

In the first chapter of Introduction to the Devout Life , Francis de Sales states his intended audience pretty clearly:

“My purpose is to instruct those who live in town, within families, or at court, and by their state of life are obliged to live an ordinary life as to outward appearances” (22).

The Protestant reformers—Luther, Calvin, Zwingli—all took advantage of contemporary technological advancements to bring about their populist-fueled reforms.

Each of these three major reformers relied on the new printing press technology to create cheap, easily-circulated pamphlets and books. Less than a hundred years old, the Gutenberg printing press created a whole new genre of religious pamphlets, easily distributed between households.

Preachers could extend their influence beyond the boundaries of their pulpit. They addressed their messages not to the kings or the powerful, but to those at the bottom of the hierarchy of power: those who were truly in need of and looking for good news. One of the leading minds of the Catholic Reformation, also known as the Counter-Reformation, Francis de Sales addressed his written preaching to the exact same audience.

He addressed those living “amid the hazards of this mortal life.” The popularity of his book over the past 400 years is a reminder that success in ministry is found by meeting the congregation where they are—by following trends and finding ways to make God’s message known within them.

Use Words Wisely

As a lawyer, Francis was highly aware of the power of words (and the importance of precise language).

What we say affects how we love. The words that we use always affect our relationships with others. The words that we say affect how we depict and encounter our relationship with God.

In Introduction to the Devout Life , Francis de Sales focuses on pursuing virtue in our language. He writes at length on our how language can affect others, particularly those less wise or less powerful than us

“for even if you do not speak with an evil intention those who hear it may take it in a different way. An evil word falling into a weak heart grows and spreads like a drop of oil on a piece of linen cloth” (182).

Francis de Sales asks us to take responsibility for our speech. Any human action can have unintended consequences, but particularly our words. How many times have we been hurt by an off-handed remark from a friend, spouse, or sibling? How many times have we realized too late an unintended connotation of a quick comment?

The more we practice speaking intentionally and thoughtfully, the less likely we are to cause harm to others.

De Sales would certainly have a few things to say about Twitter. He writes:

“to scoff at others is one of the worst states a mind can be in. … Nothing is so opposed to charity, and much more to devotion, than to despise and condemn one’s neighbor. Derision and mockery are always accompanied by scoffing, and it is therefore a very great sin” (183).

Twitter has become a famously hostile space of “hot takes” and “canceling” where mocking and scoffing are the chief forms of address. It’s a space that creates echo chambers of derision and hardening of our own views.

Studies show that the anonymity of the internet overcomes inhibitions, and we say what we might not say to someone in person, if they could see us while we said it—or if we could see them  while we said it.

But the words we say online shape the way we think, the way we act, and the way we love others. I appreciate that emails now position the contact’s photo next to his or her name, visible while I type a message to them. It helps me remember who is on the other end of a message I write and how they might potentially receive it.

The words we use matter—how are our own words, online and IRL, teaching us to love others?

Although Francis de Sales was the Bishop of his diocese, and a busy man, he never failed to show care to those he served through the written word. The next time we approach our inboxes, our timeline, or a phone call, let’s try to bring to mind the faces of Christ on the other end.

God is Love

While he was still at the Jesuit school in Paris, Francis de Sales attended a theological discussion that shook him to his core. During the 17th century, when Francis was a student, the Jansenist heresy was having its heyday in France.

Responding to the Calvinist doctrine of predestination, Jansenist theology held that only perfect contrition—true and total sorrow for our sins—could save a person from hell. Jansenists stressed moral purity and rigorous ascetic practices to do penance for one’s sins.

Francis de Sales attended a theological discussion on predestination that left him convinced that he was condemned to hell. Francis lived for the next two years in deep despair. His profound mental and spiritual anguish often left him bedridden and sick.

Finally, after a lot of desperate praying and anguish, Francis slowly began to remember the words of the First Letter of John: God is love (1 Jn 4:8). Since God is love, God could only have intended good things for Francis and have good things in store for him. God’s love is the deepest reality of who God is, and all spiritual development begins from accepting that God is love and that we are loved.

Francis rejected spirituality that created anxiety and that caused despondency. He notes, “With the single exception of sin, anxiety is the greatest evil that can happen to a soul” (239).

The Resurrected Christ greets his anxious disciples by offering them his peace. We can be sure that our risen Lord greets us with peace, too.


Finally, St. Francis de Sales is a strong advocate for the importance of friendships in helping us along the path of sainthood. Many saints have had strong friendships with one another and have promoted the power of friendship: the Franciscan power duo of Clare and Francis, Basil and Gregory, and Francis de Sales’ friendship with Jane de Chantal are all inspirations to deeper relationships.

De Sales had a close friendship with St. Jane de Chantal. Besides frequent correspondence and spiritual conversation, they even founded a religious society for women together, the Order of the Visitation of Holy Mary.

In Introduction to the Devout Life, Francis de Sales writes:

“How good it is to love here on earth as they love in heaven and to learn to cherish one another in this world as we shall do eternally in the next!” (153)

While Francis does not beat around the bush when writing on the dangers that bad friendships can exert on us, he never hesitates to sing the praises of true friendship. Friends teach us how to love others well.

In having friends, we are imitating Christ, who had intimate friendships with John the beloved, Lazarus, Mary and Martha, and relied on these human friends throughout his ministry.

We are a Communion of Saints, the Body of Christ, and we are not meant to be a Church or a disciple alone. We are called to become Christ’s Body and Blood with our friends, as friends. As we seek to be missionary disciples in the world, we need friends with us “to keep safe and assist one another in the many dangerous places they must pass through” (164).

It’s a good reminder from St. Francis de Sales, who fostered so many relationships through the written word and in person, that we cannot take our communities for granted. They are exactly who we can call upon when we need the reminder: God is love. And, with their assistance, we can be that love for the world.

“My soul waits, and in his word, I put my hope.”

Psalm 130:5-6

While we continue to navigate through the uncertainties of this pandemic, we wanted to launch an interactive Lenten campaign that would meaningfully provide value and guide parishioners in their Lenten journey this year. There are still restrictions in place, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t journey together while apart to make this the best Lent yet. We’d like to invite everyone in our diocese to join us this Lent as we prepare to remember Christ’s sacrifice and resurrection

Jesus Christ's sacrifice and resurrection

This was a major multi-channel campaign that we developed using our organization’s enterprise-wide CRM platform: HubSpot. By leveraging this new tool, it helped us streamline, magnify, and track our marketing efforts to generate valuable traffic.

Lent 2021 Landing Page

Our ministry at DeSales is dedicated to helping Catholics put their faith into action. If the initial response is an indication of what’s to come, Lent 2021 will be one to remember. 

To learn more, visit:

Representation of Jesus Christ on the cross, and the three pillars of Lent: Prayer, Fasting, and Almsgiving

Vincent LeVien and the COVID 19 Emergency Task Force have earned notice issued by the White House in recognition for organizing support during this time of crisis. By utilizing personal connections and experienced leadership as well as putting their own lives on the line, they were able to assist in support of front-line workers by coordinating and distributing 500,000 masks, 100,000 bottles of sanitizer, and 40,000 pairs of gloves to police departments, fire departments, hospitals, nursing homes, and more. The team was also responsible for facilitating the delivery of over 50,000 pizzas to over 40 hospitals and medical centers, as well as to NYPD police precincts, FDNY station houses, food banks, and community organizations throughout the city.

The Catholic Press Awards is the acknowledgment of the outstanding work of its Publisher and Communication members as they strive to further the mission of the Church. On a daily basis they inform, inspire and educate readers keeping them connected to their faith, and telling the story of the Church. It is those contributions that are recognized through these awards.

DeSales Media took home 68 awards from the Catholic Press Association of the United States and Canada on July 2, recognizing the work of DeSales Service and DeSales News’s  The Tablet and Nuestra Voz, the newspapers of the Diocese of Brooklyn.

DeSales Media awards included a sweep for Best Web and Print Package. Be The Solution Campaign took the top spot, followed by Red Ribbon Campaign second, and KindGen third. DeSales also took home second place for categories Best Social Media Campaign, Best Annual Report, and Best Ad Copywriting.

The Tablet earned second place for Best Weekly Diocesan Newspaper (the St. Louis Review took the top spot), first place for Best Layout of Article or Column, first place for Best Editorial on a Local Issue, first place for Best Writing on a National or International Event, and first place for Best Investigative News Writing.

Nuestra Voz, the diocese’s monthly Spanish-language newspaper, awards include first place for Best Coverage of Pro-Life Issues, first place for Best Local Newswriting, first place for Best Regular Column for Religious Life, first place for Best Regular Column for Family Life, and second place for Best Cover.

See the full list of Catholic Press Award recipients here.

BROOKLYN, NEW YORK — The National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences SF/Northern CA Chapter has recognized Sunday to Sunday, an online and cable TV program that uses cinematic storytelling to highlight the most gifted preachers in America, with a 2020 Emmy award for Outstanding Interview Program. Sunday to Sunday is a media partner with America Media (America Magazine) and DeSales Media Group in Brooklyn.

The Sunday to Sunday team, led by Roman Catholic priest, retired college professor, and television producer, Father Mike Russo, along with CutFocus director, Carlos Torres, were announced winners on June 6 for their production of the episode “Father Chris Walsh.” The episode explores the Philadelphia based priest’s work ministering to an African American congregation at Saint Raymond of Penafort, something Father Walsh recognizes is critical as cities grow in diversity. The award-winning episode will air on NET-TV at 5 PM on Saturday, July 4.

“Going back to the time of slavery, where Sunday was a day away from the experience of the oppression of slavery, they were often spending the day together, and their true identity was being lived out,” says Father Chris Walsh. “I think as we minister, not only to an increasingly non-white church but also a church that has very different experiences as far as socio-economics and political experiences, what the church has done when it’s been its best throughout history is to meet people where they are.”

Since founding this non-profit just three years ago, Sunday to Sunday has focused its efforts in applying contemporary cinematic production to highlight unique aspects of Catholic ministry, stimulate conversation and bring to light the word of God. Father Russo is a longtime television producer having begun his career at CBS News, beginning in 1969 as a production assistant for Walter Cronkite’s broadcast of the “Man on the Moon, the Epic Journey of Apollo 11.”

“We’re thrilled about this honor from the Academy,” says Father Mike Russo. “It’s truly a culmination of the hard work and support from many and a sign that our work is having an impact.”

Father Russo recognizes the impact storytelling can have on the Church, preaching, and evangelization. He is among the very few Roman Catholic priests to win an Emmy; and last year, the program garnered the Gabriel Award from the Catholic Press Association for the “Best TV Series & Storytelling.”

DeSales Media Group is the parent company of NET-TV, which is available in the New York City market on Spectrum, channel 97; Optimum, channel 30; and Fios by Verizon, channel 48. To learn more about Sunday to Sunday, visit:


Mitchell Woodrow
Sunday to Sunday

Father Mike Russo
Sunday to Sunday

John Quaglione
DeSales Media Group

“And they were all filled with the holy Spirit and began speaking in different tongues. …Jews and converts to Judaism, Cretans and Arabs, yet we heard them speaking in our own tongues of the mighty acts of God.” (Acts 2:4,11)

As we launch our new website on this Monday after Pentecost, I’m reminded of the apostles who, filled with the Holy Spirit, were able to proclaim the Gospel to such a wide and diverse audience.  

Today we hope the universal languages of design and storytelling will help us reach across the digital continent to speak to people in every corner of our community and country so we can help them share the Good News.  

Our new website is the digital front door of our ministry, which uses media and technology to help our clients inspire Catholics to put their faith into action. Welcome. 

Like any company website, tells our story — what we do, who we are, who we work with. But we aim to do more with this new platform. Through the case studies in Our Work, you can see how we have solved communications challenges within the Diocese of Brooklyn and beyond. In the DeSales Media Blog, you can get to know us even better as we explore how we and other Catholic organizations combine ministry and mission to reach, engage, and lead the faithful.

We hope you will use the site to connect with us and share your challenges. We are anxious to work together for God’s kingdom on earth.

Currents News and Telly Award logos

Currents News, the nightly program that covers news from the Catholic perspective on NET-TV, won nine statues during the 41st Annual Telly Awards in recognition of its excellence in journalism and video production. (Scroll down to watch the winning reports.)

Currents News’ special projects unit took home both the Gold and Silver awards for two investigative stories, “Eyes on You” and the multi-part series “Human Trafficking Exposed.” Only the top 3% of all winners receive the Gold Award.

The Currents News digital unit won a Silver Telly Award for its provocative social media video titled “Disgusting and Disgraceful, or Just a Joke?” It looks into the business of portraying celebrities as saints on religious candles.

Plus, the news team has been recognized with a Bronze Telly Award for one of its on-location stories on the inferno that nearly destroyed Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris.

The Judging Council awarded a Silver and two Bronze statues to the Currents News 30-minute nightly news program. Currents News also won a Silver People’s Choice statue by securing the popular vote.

“This is one of the hardest working news teams in the business, dedicated to producing high-quality and engaging news content for our audience,” said Vito Formica, Executive Director of News Content & Development for DeSales Media Group, the communications arm for the Diocese of Brooklyn.

“It’s a blessing and honor to be recognized. The awards motivate us to not only continue our work but also to keep reaching for new levels of excellence in journalism.”

Happy Easter! He is risen!

Two months ago, I was interviewed here on the blog about the beginning of my journey so far in Exodus 90. We promised a follow-up post at the end of the program, and this time gave the proverbial microphone to my Exodus fraternity brother, Rafael PiRoman.

Rafael is a parishioner at the Co-Cathedral of St. Joseph and the host of MetroFocus on PBS. We talked to him on Day 74. With just 16 days to go, Rafael shared his experiences with us.

How did you hear about Exodus 90?

Rafael: I heard about Exodus 90 through interviews and articles online and through various outlets of the Catholic media. I was interested, but I didn’t know how I could get involved with it and who I could gather into a fraternity. In January, I heard Msgr. Harrington mention in a homily at the Co-Cathedral that he was starting a fraternity at the Co-Cathedral. I reached out to him and joined the fraternity. The challenge started that Monday! It was a quick turnaround.

What did you think was going to be the hardest thing to give up during Exodus 90?

Rafael: You’ve heard about the cold showers? (laughs) So that’s what I thought was going to be the hardest. I work in media, so I was going to have to make an exception for screens and communication for work, but it was easy to give up TV outside of that. But then everything changed for me on the 42nd day.

Part of Exodus 90 is rigorous exercise each day. On the Monday before Ash Wednesday, I went to the doctor, as I had the biggest muscle spasm of my life from exercising the day before. I had overdone it. The doctor prescribed pain medicine for me and also gave me steroids. The steroids affected my brain and my mood, and I had sort of a “dark night of the soul.”

Previously, up to the 42nd day, this whole process had been extreme consolation. I said to a priest that this experience of asceticism and dedication to prayer, particularly the 20 minutes of silent prayer, was opening up my eyes to the faith. I was beginning to understand the faith, understand who Jesus was for the first time.

I only returned to the faith about two or three years ago. Previously, a few times before, I’d wanted to get back to the faith, but it felt like nonsense, wishful thinking. When I heard believers talking about God, I felt like I was behind a glass wall and not in there with them.

But, throughout the first few days of Exodus 90, I truly felt God’s presence, that I was in God’s palm, that heaven is where we are, we just can’t see it. I became convinced that Jesus really is God—God became a human being, and continues to dwell among us.

After being prescribed the steroids, I felt mentally weak and experienced strange symptoms. I reached out to my “anchor” [DeSales Media CEO Bill Maier] in the Exodus 90 fraternity, and he not only was completely supportive, he understood and shared a similar experience.

With my anchor and the fraternity, I was able to get through this distressing physical and mental pain. I felt that God was sending me a message. Even though I had been undertaking ascetic practices, I hadn’t really been uncomfortable—I had been secure in my own ability. I felt, oh I’m good, I’ve got this. I thought I was giving up myself when I was not.

We can’t do asceticism without confronting discomfort and evil. I felt that this pain was actually a prodding from God to surrender myself more. God was sending me a message; when we give up our lives, that is serious business. We have to accept daily pain, chronic pain. But we can’t do it alone. We need to rely on others. Ultimately, we have to acknowledge—and this is the whole point of Exodus 90—that we cannot lead ourselves to freedom. We have to hope in Christ. Not ourselves.

How has your experience of the fraternity impacted your experience?

Rafael: If this series of mishaps hadn’t happened, I might have told you, “I’m prepared, I’m ready, I can do it. I can change my life around after the 90 days.” Now I know that I couldn’t do it without the fraternity. Every meeting we’ve had has always made this experience better for me.

It is Jesus who saves us, who leads us out of the dark wood, but he does that through the intervention of other human beings.

How has the coronavirus pandemic impacted your experience of Exodus 90?

Rafael: I mean, talk about not being in control. I lived through a revolution in Cuba, through the 9/11 attacks, through the Vietnam War, but nothing compares to this—we truly are out of control.

This new virtual and digital society we’ve become has really exposed my tech ignorance. I’ve had to surrender myself in a new way by asking for help. I’ve been asking people in my company, younger coworkers or colleagues, to help me. I’ve found that people have been absolutely kind and generous and patient with me.
One of my coworkers told me: “Listen Rafael, in a time like this, we just have to be a little more patient and kind to each other.”


Isn’t that the truth?

In my own experience, my favorite music never got any easier to be without, and the cold showers stayed jarring. But what was revealed to me over the three months was that so much of what I felt was an important part of my life, isn’t. That things we think we need, we don’t. And that becoming less attached to stuff like this is only the beginning of living a Christian life.

I am grateful to have had this experience, and I give glory to God for bringing me through it. The program focuses on turning us from selfish guys who are attached to our comforts into men for others. It is about treating Day 91 not as a finish line but as a new beginning. And I am invigorated to live for Christ.

He is risen indeed.

By Dave Plisky

What an unexpected Lent we have had. Going into Holy Week, we find ourselves wondering how we can give to others while sequestered in our homes.

It seems like everyone wants monetary donations. And while we’re doing our best to remember the Lord’s words that He will provide, many of us are operating on significantly reduced incomes.

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat [or drink], or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing?”
Matthew 6:25

Instead, let us pick ourselves up from the emotional rut of isolation and think about how we might serve those around us.

May you use the gifts that you have received and pass on the love that has been given to you.
St. Teresa of Avila

1. First of all, Stay home. Stop the spread. Doing so keeps you from unknowingly contracting the virus from other sources, and from spreading it yourself. But what if you aren’t sick, or you plan to go out without coming into contact with anyone else? There is still a risk: people who contract COVID-19 typically don’t show symptoms for 3-14 days, and some never show symptoms at all.

2. Stop hoarding. It’s okay to have enough—and there are some things you’ll want to stock up on, such as disinfectant wipes. But don’t buy so much that others are deprived of groceries and other essential items. Some people are actually having a hard time finding toilet paper because of the hysteria.

3. Start praying. [Pray for the living and the dead.] Those affected by the virus need your prayers. Pray for the elderly, for the poor, for the uninsured, for those who have tested positive, for their families and loved ones. Pray for the medical workers on the front lines. Pray for priests celebrating the sacrifice of the Mass alone. Pray for those in isolation, for the homeless, for those with mental health challenges, for those stuck away from home, for families with young children at home, for those out of work, for those with other health conditions. Pray for the repose of the souls of the departed. Ask the Great Physician for healing. Appeal to the saints. Pray.

4. Donate health care supplies. [“Visit” the sick.”] Your local hospital or other health care facilities may be short on supplies that you have. Visiting is probably out of the question, so consider donating extra personal protective equipment that you may have bought in excess or simply have lying around. Your local shelter may be another service in need. Consider donating extra cleaning supplies or hand sanitizer if you have them.

5. Host healthcare workers. [Shelter the “homeless.”] If you have a home where you would feel comfortable offering a portion of it to those on the front lines, consider listing it on Airbnb. Those treating patients every day are overworked and often can’t commute home, either because there is no time, or they are volunteering from out of town. Airbnb has responded by making it free for them to find a place to stay.

6. Call your loved ones. [Comfort the afflicted.] Everyone is going through an unprecedented level of isolation and, often, anxiety and fear. Friends and family are no exception—and quite possibly the ones who count on you and need you the most in this time of crisis. Be there for them. Video chat is easier than ever before, and it can make someone’s day to hear your voice and see your face.

7. Reach out to an elderly person. [“Visit” the sick.] The elderly being cared for in a home are especially susceptible to coronavirus outbreaks, and as a result, loved ones are generally not able to visit. You are also likely to have people at your parish who are confined indoors by illness or disability. If you think it sounds overly romanticized to send snail mail, think again. Something is conveyed in a physical, hand-written letter that you don’t achieve in other forms of communication. Are you better on the phone? A kind voice can make a person’s day. Speak to your pastor about contact information for those unable to leave their homes, and check in on them.

8. Write to someone in prison. [“Visit” the imprisoned.] Those in prison are isolated from society. If we think quarantine is difficult, imagine years of this. There are ways to let the incarcerated know you are thinking of them, even from home. If you don’t know someone in prison, websites like can put you in touch with inmates seeking correspondence. They even have a designation for those who are Catholic. Sister Helena Prejean has published tips on writing to the imprisoned here.

9. Be an example to others. [Instruct the ignorant.] As Christians, we are often not choosing between doing evil and doing good, but rather we are choosing between two goods. Unless you live alone, your family will see how you are choosing to spend your time in service of others. It is in these silent moments of charity that we are Christ’s best evangelizers. This virus might be XX times more contagious than the flu, but I believe virtue is contagious, too. Practice the gift of love and watch as others do more of the same.

If you do feel comfortable going outside, or if you’re stepping out anyway (of course taking the necessary precautions), your elderly neighbors may still need things picked up or dropped off for them, including essentials like groceries, medication, and laundry. Check in on your neighborhood and see how you can help. It doesn’t have to involve any contact.

Or, text your pastor and see if he needs help around the parish. With a reduced offertory, he may have been forced to cut some non-critical expenses. Maybe he’s got an outdoor maintenance project for you, such as mowing the lawn. He is probably overwhelmed. A helping hand will always be appreciated.


We receive when we give. We love the Lord when we see Him in others and love them too. We love through charity—an outpouring of oneself. Be a person for others.

Watch Mass from home and continue to partake in spiritual communion. Even while physically away from one another and Christ Himself in the Eucharist, it is important that we offer up the sacrifice of the Mass to Him. Hopefully, your parish is streaming live Mass daily. If it is not, and you’re in the Diocese of Brooklyn, give us a call. We’re ready to help.